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Girls Gone Theoretically Empowered! [Apr. 22nd, 2008|08:45 am]
Greetings Fellow Comstoks!
I wish this was the kind of world where say, 'Wow, I'd like to touch your breasts,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful.

1. I expected Open Source Boob Project to be something satirical, perhaps involving putting a pair of boobs on random objects to make fun of sexualized culture. It wasn't.

2. Then I read it and discomfort ensued - actually "EW!".

3. In theory, consensual taboo violation within formalized boundaries isn't necessarily sexist, but in practice it's not exactly empowerment, either.

4.1 It was a fan convention which may mean a rarified, safe environment or may mean tougher, pressurized social heirarchy.

4.2 The intitial spontaneous exchanges may have been transgressive, but a stranger tolerating a playfully rude request isn't necessarily a fair exchange of pure adoration and the presence of women may be the only thing which mitigated the creep factor.

5. Turning it into a project which involves forming a group to hand out buttons is different and brings up peer power dynamics.

6. "My breasts," they asked shyly, having heard about the project. "Are they... are they good enough to be touched?" And lo, we showed them how beautiful their bodies were without turning it into something tawdry.

7. If one is going to use "empowerment" one is has to deal with all the theory and politics which it invokes.

8. Something about the whole "Open Source Boobs" thing makes transactional boobage (i.e. stripping) almost seem progressive by comparison. And you don't get to touch most strippers.

9. After a strong response the author amends his essay to claim "most of the men were open-sourced, too. The question of what that means is up to you." Yeah, right.

10. Were I a woman, this would be a point where an "Ow, My Oves" fan icon would be appropriate.

11. Edited to add: This was actually one of the author's responses comments:
And your response seems to come from a personal mindset of, "My body is something so special to me that only people I have firmly vetted and talked to and invested in should be allowed to touch those areas." Which is fine. It's a way of saying, "I only want people I find attractive and/or nice to want me," which is in fact the prevalent societal attitude.

But that also involves an interview process, and the attitude that your body is a vested space that is, by nature, exclusive. That's fine. But that doesn't mean it's the only way to be, or that it's always healthy.
Yes, because not liking being groped by strangers is just THE MAN setting the rules. I will have to assume he doesn't realize arguing "the attitude that your body is a vested space that is, by nature, exclusive" is somehow unhealthy can have pro-life (and perhaps -rape) connotations.

12. If going around pressuring women to wear buttons indicating their willingness to be groped is empowerment then the New Orleans Tit Flashing For Beads Exchange is a revolutionary matriarchal economy.

As usual, Nihilistic Kid has an ungrumpy, spot-on response.

Also while I violently disagree with this essay, it has the backwards benefit of providing a specific context in which to explain nerd blindspots in gender politics, sexism, etc. There's more observations under the cut.

Here's some more observations:

From pleonastic:
i am pretty sure it was a special thing for the people who started this, and it wasn't at all as skeevy as it sounded to me when recounted. a lot of people are touch-starved, and it would be nice if touch didn't carry such strong sexual messages...i don't like that it's called "the open-source boob project". there is a lot of justification from other people after the initial post -- that it wasn't just about boobs and it wasn't just women being touched. ok, but why the hell isn't it called the "open-source touch project" or the "open-source body project" then?

From springheel-jack:
I know from nerds and geeks, and when they get together in groups they have a tendency to try to remake social norms on more "rational" lines and in doing so they march bravely backward into the dark ages. They make the same mistake that a lot of people with a utopian bent ...in the name of improving things, making them more honest, transparent, reasonable, and true...they reproduce all the errors and fall into all the horrors that people with more experience, with more history, already know about.

Too many geek guys never got the message. The game is one of gender politics and they stayed home with their computers - those shadow-boxes of projective fantasizing - rather than go out and have experiences of, well, gender, with people unlike themselves...They never had their fantasies reality-checked. Instead they masturbated and imagined how things could be different - a world without all the preliminaries and subtexts and baggage of the adult world. A world in which, sexually, it would be perfectly okay to go up to any desirable woman and say, "me cowboy, you indian, bang bang you're dead."

There is this awful immaturity in the condition of geekdom. The singleminded obsessions; the valorization of social inexperience and awkwardness; the love of blinking lights. Look, I know what it felt like to grow up like that, smart, shy, and stigmatized, and I can understand wanting to feel good about being a geek...But when it's an excuse to refuse to be an adult and to deal with adult complexity...

Also, also:Also, even earlier Springheel Jack makes the even more cogent point:
The ferrett wonders why a man’s asking, out of the blue, if he can feel up a woman’s boobs shouldn’t be understood as “a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful.” But this is simply to ask why he shouldn’t be able to continue to treat women as they have always been treated...we can't keep patriarchy out of it; the mere attempt is a means not so much of re-inscribing patriarchy but of shoving people in front of it to be run down, as if by a rampaging elephant. Women have not generally been able to define for themselves their own sexual identities and the parameters of their own sexual lives. Their sexuality has been policed by men - now restricted, now afforded, never at the woman's will but at the man's. That fact makes it more than childish to propose this as a psychosexual utopia - it's something much worse, much more culpable, then a mere boy's callow musing.
I encourage everyone to read the full post.

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